Towards an operational definition of discourse contrast

John Myhill, Zhiqun Xing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Linguists have often invoked the concept of contrast in attempting to explain the use of certain constructions without explicitly defining this term. The present paper proposes an operational definition of contrast which can be applied to naturally occurring data so as to provide a more precise account of the relationship between form and function. The specific problem addressed is word order in Biblical Hebrew and Chinese. It is shown that contrast is one factor affecting deviations from canonical word order in these languages, but that the effect of contrast differs in a number of respects in the two languages, and many deviations from canonical word order cannot be accounted for by reference to contrast.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-360
Number of pages58
JournalStudies in Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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